What a Souper Way to Be Kind! (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, January 31, 2016

Yes, the Super Bowl will be here again in just a few days. That entertainment extravaganza with some football thrown in. (I kid, I kid.)

Seriously, The Super Bowl has become a Winter Event, even for people who do not ordinarily watch football. Except—it’s become much more than that, in several other, important areas. Including the area I highlight here, in last year’s post. My friend Pastor Ross recently left the Presbyterian church in Cuyahoga Falls and moved to a new church. (All the best at your new church, Fairgreen Presbyterian Church, in Toledo, Ross!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, January 31, 2014

souper bowl of caring 

What a Souper Way to Be Kind! (Feature Friday!)

The Super Bowl is almost upon us, here in the United States. This finale to the 2013-14 football season will bring people from across the country—and across the world—together to watch the extravaganza, the festivities, the commercials. Oh, yes. And the football game, too.

As I have a pastor friend at a church in Ohio. (I featured this church in Ohio two weeks ago, with Yarn Alive!) My friend, Ross, is a pastor of a Presbyterian Church in Ohio. One of the mission outreaches at their church is Souper Bowl of Caring. What, you might ask, is Souper Bowl of Caring? Good question! I’m glad you asked. Put simply, this effort uses “the energy of the Super Bowl to mobilize youth in a united national effort to care for people in their local communities who are hungry and those in need.” (from the Souper Bowl Mission Statement)

A brief history of this outreach, from the Souper Bowl of Caring website: “A simple prayer: “Lord, even as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us be mindful of those who are without a bowl of soup to eat” is inspiring a youth-led movement to help hungry and hurting people around the world.

“This prayer, delivered by Brad Smith, then a seminary intern serving at Spring Valley Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC, gave birth to an idea. Why not use Super Bowl weekend, a time when people come together for football and fun, to also unify the nation for a higher good: collecting dollars and canned food for the needy? Youth could collect donations at their schools and churches in soup pots, and then send every dollar DIRECTLY to a local charity of THEIR choice.”

This outreach effort started in 1990. Other churches joined the team, and by 1997 Souper Bowl of Caring reached $1 million and kept right on going. In 2004, the first NFL owners joined the Souper Bowl team. Also in 2004, First Lady Laura Bush kicked off the caring effort that year. In 2008, the national total for the food and funds drive topped $10 million.  And it’s still continuing to grow.

Whether in local congregations like the church in Cuyahoga Falls or Toledo, Ohio, or in city-wide efforts like in Houston, Austin or Dallas/Fort Worth, the Souper Bowl of Caring is a tremendous opportunity to be kind to people, where it counts—in the pocketbook. Pocketbook issues are a concern to people across the nation. With unemployment and under-employment so prevalent, and costs for basics such as heating going through the roof in this challenging winter, all the more reason to give something, if we can!

Pastor Ross said recently, “I hope you are able to make an extra run to the store just for this cause. We are blessed to be a blessing. The need is substantial, and UPC can help with your help.” What a wonderful way to bless those who have real needs. Whether with cans of soup or chili donated to local food pantries, or with cash donations to the charity of YOUR choice, please consider giving. What a way to join in. Join this caring team. For a Super—I mean, Souper Bowl, indeed.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my regular blog for 2016: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. Thanks!)

(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com .   @chaplaineliza And read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

Showing Love, Serving Breakfast (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, February 7, 2014

community breakfast - ranier post

Showing Love, Serving Breakfast (Feature Friday!)

Hungry people are all over the place. Not just in the inner city, or in major metropolitan areas. My friend and fellow graduate from seminary, Grace, is now the youth director at River Falls United Methodist Church, in River Falls, Wisconsin. A little over halfway towards the northern border of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Much closer to the western border with Minnesota and the Mississippi River. River Falls is a college town with the University of Wisconsin-River Falls only a few blocks from River Falls UMC. But other than that, the area for miles around is thinly populated. Small towns, farms, wooded patches, some hilly areas. Few large concentrations of people other than the town itself. Grace commented, “There are no services in any other town really. So many people come [to River Falls] for services. Everywhere else is rural.“

However few or many people live in this area, there are still very real, very human needs. Unemployment. Healthcare issues. Hunger. People struggling to make ends meet, and going without. As Grace said in response to my question about unemployment and under-employment, “It is [sad]. Poverty hides well.”

In the midst of this difficult situation, River Falls United Methodist Church does what it can. The church offers a community breakfast each second Saturday from 8 am to 10 am. Anyone can come. And people do attend. From near, from far—they come to be fed.

Moreover, the faith community at River Falls UMC is also a part of another ministry in town—the Tuesday Banquet that happens on the second and fourth Tuesdays at St. Bridget’s Catholic Church. The folks from the UMC help with the cooking and clean-up. What a wonderful opportunity to work together, to cross denominational lines, and show ecumenical unity. This is truly the way to display the love of God—and not highlight the bickering and division between church groups.

I reflected as I read what Grace messaged to me: what a way to show the love of God in a very real (and filling!) way. I also though of the verse from Matthew 25:40, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” In this larger discourse, the words of Jesus can be stern, even frightening. In this specific verse, however, Jesus gives words of praise to His followers who did not even know they were serving God.

Yes, feeding the hungry is service to God just as much as a service to the hungry people. And River Falls UMC offers to feed the hungry not only physically, but spiritually as well. Satisfying hunger to fill an empty stomach ranks as a primary act of love, as far as I’m concerned. God bless the faithful folks at this church for such a loving, caring ministry of service.

@chaplaineliza

(photo credit – community breakfast, RainierPost.com)